Sunday, December 18, 2011

Obama’s piles of gifts for Maliki

The Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s visit to Washington meant a great deal to US President Barack Obama. It could help ward off criticism by the neocons and the Republican right that Obama didn’t do enough to extract a long-term US military presence in Iraq. (The plain truth is he did all he could.)

Maliki’s presence in the White House even as the last US troops are leaving Iraq helps Obama to maintain the pretence that it is happy ‘homecoming’ rather than being asked by the Iraqis to quit their country. Also, Obama can claim that a new chapter in US-Iraq relations is beginning - “a normal relationship between sovereign nations, and equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect”, as he put it.

But the fact remains that US devastated a country that was edging close to OECD standards. A million Iraqis may have been killed. The entire society has been brutalised and the country’s industry and infrastructure have been destroyed. And, all for what? The US is unable to explain its crime against humanity.

The WaPo is right in saying Iraqis don’t exactly have fond feelings for US. “Civilian killings created insurmountable hurdle to extended US troops in Iraq”.

Alas, the message coming out of the White House is that even after all this unspeakable tragedy, US is still not willing to let Iraq go. Obama’s charm offensive had two intentions: A) getting Maliki to concede the lion’s share for Big Oil even as Iraq’s great reserves are being brought into the world market; and, B) developing Iraq as a market for export of US weaponry.

‘A’ is understandable and even, arguably, constitutes a legitimate US interest. But ‘B’ isn’t. By any reckoning. This isn’t the time to persuade Maliki to buy F-16 fighter aircraft. It’s obscene - especially, just before Christmas. Read More